Editorial: Disaster reminds us we are all the same
Once again, Mother Nature has struck with a violent hand.
As Americans slept Thursday night, a ferocious 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan - the biggest quake in that country's recorded history. As if this devastation were not enough, the natural disaster took another swipe, setting off a tsunami that threatened Hawaii, California and Oregon, as well.
Sirens blaring across Hawaii sent people to higher ground, and residents along the West Coast were warned to stay away from the beaches.
Fortunately, Hawaiians and residents along our Pacific Coast line didn't have to bite their nails for long. Damage from the tsunami on our soil was next to nothing, but the picture was quite different in Japan.
The massive quake shook a 1,300-mile stretch of cities and villages along Japan's eastern coast, including Tokyo, hundreds of miles away from its epicenter. And then the tsunami roared toward its shores, sending a 23-feet-tall wall of water that swept away boats, cars and buildings as it spread inland. More than 50 aftershocks came after the tsunami, most of them greater than a magnitude 6 earthquake.
As with any tragedy of this proportion, the death toll will continue to soar in coming days. By Friday afternoon, Japanese officials had confirmed 300 dead, 530 more missing and many more injured. They expect the number of fatalities to climb into the thousands.
With so much destruction to assess, it will take time to know where help for Japan will be most needed. Earlier Friday, President Barack Obama pledged any U.S. assistance that Japan requested. One U.S. aircraft carrier was already in the region, and a second was on its way to help with recovery efforts. Still fearing the unknown, our own military forces and other agencies were standing by in case Hawaii and West Coast cities were in any kind of danger.
American Red Cross officials said Friday they were discussing avenues of possible help with its Japanese counterpart, which already has "extraordinary disaster response capabilities." But the agency said people can help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific by sending donations to its Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Gifts site found on www.redcross.org. Or people can make a $10 contribution by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
While we wait for more information, we can rest assured that Americans will do their part to help earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged Japan. Despite our diversities, Americans reach out in unity to another country that faces such plight as Japan does now.
"When you see what is happening in Japan," Obama said Friday, "you are reminded that, for all our differences in culture or language or religion, ultimately humanity is one."